Destabilizing speculation

Russian fears of encirclement have some justification

By Lethbridge Herald on January 13, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE EDITORIAL BOARD

As most of us sat down for the holiday season in the warmth of hearth and home, in another part of the world, a massive buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border seemed like a harbinger. things to come, and drifting inexorably towards war. .

This week, Russia and the United States sat down for last-minute security talks to try to avoid any possible armed conflict in the region, but they still appeared to be miles apart. other in their respective positions. And there didn’t seem to be any promising prospects for further detente between the two powers over Ukraine in the future.

With speculation of a possible Russian invasion now rife, there are suspicions – along with a flurry of other observers and analysts – that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin may be trying to play a much deeper game. Increasing military pressure on the Ukrainian border could very well be an attempt to make concessions to the West and NATO – namely to prevent Ukraine’s eventual NATO membership – rather than having the intent to spark a conflict that could very quickly spiral out of control.

In the West, Russia’s actions always appear – and are often presented that way by our media – as clear evidence of the nation’s aggressive posture and foreign policy, and its tendency to be a destabilizing force in global affairs rather than working towards de-escalation. . Russia is no saint, and its actions over the past decade should give anyone pause before naming them among the who’s who of freedom-loving nations.

However, in this case, Russia’s demands of the West in exchange for some form of de-escalation might seem unreasonable to many of us, but not to those with even a passing familiarity with geography and history. recent Russian history. Russians have a pathological fear of being surrounded at their borders, and with good reason of being invaded twice via Europe in the 20th century. In terms of human lives, estimates of the number of Russians lost in World War II sometimes reach 27 million, more than any other victor in the conflict. People tend to have a long memory for this kind of horror.

Almost immediately in the post-Soviet era in the 1990s, NATO began to encroach on areas that had always been firmly considered a Russian sphere of influence, in the Baltic and other parts of Europe. from the East, including former Warsaw Pact satellites and even Soviet possessions like Ukraine. . This has been seen with increasing concern by the Kremlin, and has been ever since.

Seeing things through Russian eyes is difficult, but we should at least try. If Ukraine were to join NATO, from the Russian perspective, it would almost be as if a hostile military power moving into Canada or Mexico would be seen in the United States. The analogy is not overstated and shows that Russia may have a score to settle with the West after all.

While creating a military buildup on the Ukrainian border and destabilizing the region may not be the best way to achieve results, clumsy military efforts and shows of force are also in keeping with the Russian character these recent years, and in the past as well. We can’t really be sure if war, or something else, might be their intention.

However, these types of escalations are also inherently dangerous when opposing military forces are in such close proximity. All it takes is one shot, a downed plane, a sunken ship or a bombarded position before things quickly spiral out of control.

Hopefully cool heads will prevail in Eastern Europe before armed conflict ensues.

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